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Hemodynamic responses link individual differences in informational masking to the vicinity of superior temporal gyrus


Zhang, Min; Alamatsaz, Nima; Ihlefeld, Antje (2021), Hemodynamic responses link individual differences in informational masking to the vicinity of superior temporal gyrus, Dryad, Dataset,


Suppressing unwanted background sound is crucial for aural communication. A particularly disruptive type of background sound, informational masking (IM), often interferes in social settings. However, IM mechanisms are incompletely understood. At present, IM is identified operationally: when a target should be audible, based on suprathreshold target/masker energy ratios, yet cannot be heard because target-like background sound interferes. We here confirm that speech identification thresholds differ dramatically between low- vs. high-IM background sound. However, speech detection thresholds are comparable across the two conditions. Moreover, functional near infrared spectroscopy recordings show that task-evoked blood oxygenation changes near the superior temporal gyrus (STG) covary with behavioral speech detection performance for high-IM but not low-IM background sound, suggesting that the STG is part of an IM-dependent network. Moreover, listeners who are more vulnerable to IM show increased hemodynamic recruitment near STG, an effect that cannot be explained based on differences in task difficulty across low- vs. high-IM. In contrast, task-evoked responses near another auditory region of cortex, the caudal inferior frontal sulcus (cIFS), do not predict behavioral sensitivity, suggesting that the cIFS belongs to an IM-independent network. Results are consistent with the idea that cortical gating shapes individual vulnerability to IM.


Normally hearing participants were tasked to detect the presence of keyword. Participants held their eyes closed and responded via button presses. While participants were engaged in the task, hemodynamic responses near the caudal inferior frontal sulcus and superior temporal gyrus were recorded on both sides of the head.


For details please see manuscript. 

Usage Notes

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National Institutes of Health, Award: R01-DC019126

NJACTS, Award: UL1TR003017

NJACTS, Award: UL1TR003017